Gloucester lost a firefighter in 1978 when Glen T. MacLeod passed the CPA exam and traded the station house for an accounting office.
That career change is paying big dividends for Cape Ann residents.
MacLeod emerged Wednesday as the donor whose major gift allowed the fundraising for, and imminent construction of, a new YMCA at the site of the quickly disappearing Fuller Elementary School. The Glen T. MacLeod YMCA for Cape Ann is set to open in about 15 months with an eight-lane pool and numerous other educational and recreational amenities.
MacLeod said in an interview that the seed for the gift was planted over a number of years when he would stop to work out at the Sterling Center YMCA in Beverly on his way from his office in West Peabody to the home he and his wife of 50 years, MaryHelen, share in Rockport.
MacLeod said he would ponder the major impact Lester O. Sterling's family achieved by giving the Beverly YMCA the land that at first was a camp and ultimately became the site of the Sterling aquatics center and gymnasiums. MacLeod also thought Cape Ann needed a similarly expansive YMCA.
So he decided at a meeting with one of the Cape Ann YMCA's leaders: "Damn it, I'm going to do the same thing."
The reason for the large, early gift, MacLeod said, was "to convince the city and other people that this could happen."
"I was proud to be a firefighter," he said, but "I'm glad to be able to do what I did (for the YMCA)."
He said his wife and he "believe in helping other people."